Written by Christy Hinko Friday, 18 January 2013 00:00
As if serving as a trial lawyer in Los Angeles is not ambitious enough, Charles J. Greaves, originally from Levittown, found time to make a huge shift in his career direction, after 25 years. Greaves moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2006 to pursue a writing career and has since published two novels, Hush Money and Hard Twisted.
Greaves’ debut novel, Hush Money, a mystery, was honored by SouthWest Writers as “Best Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller/ Adventure Novel of 2010” and was awarded the guild’s highest honor, grand-prize “Storyteller Award for 2010,” which he earned over 680 other authors’ submissions. In May 2012, St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books published Hush Money.
The second novel, Hard Twisted, is historical fiction, based on a Depression-era true crime saga, also honored by SouthWest Writers as “Best Historical Novel of 2010.” Hard Twisted was recently published by Bloomsbury USA in November 2012.
Levittown Tribune recently caught up with the author, who is making preparations to release his third novel later this year, and asked about his career, and his memories of being from Levittown.
Levittown Tribune: How long had you lived in Levittown?
Chuck Greaves: Nobody is really ‘born’ in Levittown, since there’s no hospital there, but I lived in Levittown from day three or so until after my 18th birthday, from 1955 through 1974, when I graduated from Levittown Memorial High School. My parents—both returning GIs—were original Levittowners, having bought their home on Tallow Lane in 1947. I, and all of my five siblings, attended both Abbey Lane and Memorial.
LT: Do you still have family here on Long Island? When did you leave Levittown?
CG: My mom is still going strong at age 90; she lives with my sister in Lindenhurst. I left in 1974 to attend college at the University of Southern California (1974-78), and then law school at Boston College (1978-81).
LT: Do you ever visit Levittown, or Long Island?
CG: Yes, to visit family. And every time I do, I’m struck by the beauty of it. I think you need to get away from your hometown for a while before you can fully appreciate it.
LT: Fondest memories of Levittown?
CG: Too many to count. The Greaves family was all jocks, so many of my fondest memories are sports-related. Beating South Side High School—at the time, the defending Nassau County champs—was the highlight of the 1972-73 basketball season, I can tell you that. Also, I have many fond memories of biking to the library to check out books by people like Ray Bradbury and Rex Stout and Isaac Asimov.
LT: Any inspiration from Levittown that has helped your writing career?
CG: I didn’t realize it at the time, but the creative writing course that I took as a high school senior, taught by Richard Hawkey, must have made an impression. Once I retired from practicing law (in 2006) and turned my attention to writing fiction, I got some good advice from Greg Donaldson (LMHS ’64), an old family friend who has published two excellent books. Also, Phillip Margolin (LMHS ’61), a multi-NY Times bestselling author, was kind enough to read and blurb Hush Money, my first novel, before it was published.
LT: About your writing, why should people read these books?
CG: The first novel, Hush Money, is a smart, witty page-turner that has gotten rave reviews, and should appeal to any readers who like to be entertained. The second novel, Hard Twisted, is a work of literary/historical fiction, set in the Depression-era Southwest. It tells the true story of a young girl who is kidnapped by her father’s murderer and led on a one-year crime and killing spree. They’re very different novels, but both have won major literary awards.
LT: Who, what kind of readers, will definitely find these books fascinating?
CG: If you like Nelson DeMille’s John Corey novels, I think you’ll like Hush Money. If you like Cormac McCarthy’s border trilogy, I think you’ll like Hard Twisted, which has been called, “Lolita meets Blood Meridian.”
LT: What was the inspiration for writing these types of novels?
CG: I suppose the common denominator is that both novels involve the law to some extent. Hush Money is a legal mystery, and Hard Twisted begins and ends in a courtroom.
LT: What kind of research did you need to do to complete these stories?
CG: Hush Money, not so much. Hard Twisted, on the other hand, involved over 10 years of very meticulous research into the true events that underpin the novel.
LT: How long did it take you, start to finish, to begin writing and finally publish each of the novels?
CG: Hush Money took two years to write, [while] working full-time. Not counting the research, Hard Twisted took around 18 months to write, again working full-time from my home in Santa Fe, NM. Once both manuscripts were finished, I entered them in the 2010 SouthWest Writers’ International Writing Contest, where, out of 680 entries, Hard Twisted came in second and Hush Money came in first. Within four months of that, I had a New York agent and two publishing contracts.
LT: What draws you to this genre of writing?
CG: I enjoy reading the mystery/thriller genre, and I’m a huge fan of contemporary western writers like Cormac McCarthy, Charles Portis, and Larry McMurtry.
LT: Are there any parts of the books that could be about Levittown?
CG: Hah! Since I wrote both of them, there’s probably a lot of Levittown somewhere between the lines, particularly in the first-person voice of Hush Money.
LT: Any plans to keep writing, publishing? What’s next?
CG: I’m in it for the long haul. Look for Green-Eyed Lady (Minotaur), the first sequel to Hush Money, in bookstores in June of 2013. After that, who knows?